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New Zealand Institute of Architects









Winner – Abdallah Alayan

Abdallah Alayan at the 2019 Student Design Awards

Photo: David St George

Abdallah Alayan from University of Auckland School of Architecture and Planning , has won the 2019 NZIA Resene Student Design Awards with his project ‘Faith in Fiordland’.

Project description

In an increasingly secular society, the spirit has been demoted as an architectural priority. This series of four architectural interventions along the pilgrimage from Te Anau to Milford Sound seeks to address the growing non-religious demographic within Aotearoa through spaces which encourage spiritual engagement.

Exploring the possibilities in which architecture can generate poetry and heighten spirituality within the landscape, the spatial series aims to further develop the New Zealand vernacular and unlock the potential of Fiordland’s built fabric. By extracting and spatially abstracting common practices from a variety of faiths, the inclusivity of the four interventions articulates a sense of unity between the religious and non- religious through a shared connection to the spiritual weight of nature.


This is a beautiful project – a thesis expressed with clarity and sensitivity, premised on inclusivity and inspired with optimism. Proposing architecture in a National Park – and, what’s more, Fiordland National Park – is a bold move, but Abdallah carries if off with grace and a totally winning sensibility. The scheme is a series of architectural interventions – an architecture of special moments – designed for an age in which most people have no allegiance to a particular religion but retain the capacity to be awe-struck by nature. The scheme exhibits a profound understanding of and sympathy for the human condition. The openness of the architecture is a befitting expression of the generosity of the designer.

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